Sand volleyball opens history books with an ace

Daniel Brey/ Contributing Writer

FIU sand volleyball put on yet another show for the second straight week defeating Webber International University 4-1 in two duals matches.

The Panthers (3-3), coming off a dominating win at last week’s Hawaii Tournament and now ranked sixth in the nation, hosted the Warriors on March 23, marking the first home sand volleyball game in FIU history.

Before the beginning of the match, excitement filled the air as a special ceremony, headlined by University President Dr. Mark Rosenberg, was held to commemorate the inaugural season of sand volleyball.

The ceremony featured the cutting of the game nets, and a team photograph with Rosenberg, athletics director Pete Garcia, and Senior Associate Athletic Director Julie Berg.

“It was definitely amazing,” graduate student Kate Stepanova said. “What a great opening… It was so special to have all these big names here to share this moment with us.”

“I was so excited watching the cutting of the net and the entire ceremony,” said freshman Emily Podschweit. “Our team is going to be known by many generations to come here at FIU.”

A spike in interest

The Panthers arrived in Miami after going 1-3 on their first west coast road trip of the inaugural season.

Their performance was not exactly what was expected from a team coach by an Olympic silver medalist.

Saturday’s matchup however, had more than 150 spectators on hand to witness the first home sand volleyball game in FIU history a total, much higher than predicted.

“We had so many fans,” Podschweit said. “I was so surprised, we usually don’t have this many fans being that we are a first year program.”

Of those fans, a few had the opportunity to sit alongside their favorite sand volleyball players.

“I was talking to some people in the bleachers that had never seen a sand volleyball game,” Stepanova said. “You could tell they absolutely loved it.”

Stepanova and junior Maryna Samoday were just two of the various sand volleyball players who engaged in conversations with fans during timeouts.

Fans who attended the game lined up around the perimeter of the sand courts, while others took a seat on the three benches provided by FIU.

The lack of spectator accommodations and the optimistic future of the team have led FIU to develop a plan to build new bleachers for next season according to Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett.

“FIU is planning to build brand new bleachers for next season,” Buck-Crockett said. “We really needed it.”

Surf and Turf tournament

Starting March 29 at 9 a.m. on the FIU sand courts, the Panthers will take on the best teams in the nation at the Surf and Turf tournament, which will mark the first sand volleyball tournament to take place at FIU.

The Panthers will face Georgia State, Tulane, FAU and defending national champions Pepperdine, who steamed rolled FIU 5-0 in their first matchup of the season.

“We will certainly review the tape from our previous game against Pepperdine to see what adjustments we can make to better our chances of winning,” Buck-Crockett said.